Portland Commissioner: Police Are ‘Starting the Fires Themselves’ to Justify ‘Attacking Community Members’

PORTLAND, OR - JULY 20: A fire burns around a sign reading I cant breathe during a protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 201, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Monday night marked 54 days of protests in Portland following the death of George Floyd in …
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Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty told Marie Claire she believes Portland Police are “starting the fires themselves” to justify “attacking community members.”

“I am old enough to remember that during the civil rights movement, the police had provocateurs … intentionally added to the group to do disruptive stuff,” the commissioner told Marie Claire in an interview published Wednesday.

“I have no doubt in my mind, I believe with all my heart, that that is what Portland police are doing,” she continued.

“I believe Portland Police is lying about the damage — or starting the fires themselves — so that they have justification for attacking community members,” Hardesty added.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell responded to Hardesty’s claim —  that police officers are committing acts of arson to justify “attacking” protesters — and challenged her to provide evidence of the “completely false” suggestion.

“Commissioner Hardesty’s statement that police officers would commit the crime of arson in order to precipitate their violation of people’s civil rights strains credulity,” Lovell said. “I am interested in seeing what evidence she has to support her accusations.”

“I’m disappointed that an elected official would make a statement like this without providing specific facts to support it. This allegation is completely false,” he added:

Hardesty also accused Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf — who explained this week that federal law enforcement officers were sent to curb “violent criminal activity every single night for 52 nights” after city officials failed to quell the unrest — of lying.

“That is a blatant lie,” she said. “It is a lie that 45 keeps tweeting out, that he came in and somehow fixed Portland.”

“If he’s fixed Portland, why are [federal agents] still brutalizing people every night?” Hardesty continued.

“Because if you can intimidate and silence Portland, which has a long history of direct action protest, then what [do] you think will happen in Mississippi and Louisiana and all the other places?” she asked.

Wednesday marked night 56 of riots in Portland as demonstrators attacked the federal courthouse, prompting a response from federal law enforcement. While Portland Police did not engage with demonstrators, they declared a riot after midnight, although the declaration did little to disperse the crowd:

According to the Portland Police Bureau, demonstrators threw Molotov Cocktails and “hundreds of projectiles” at the federal courthouse. PPB said “multiple vandalisms occurred including fire hydrants which were opened wasting several hundred gallons of water into the street.”

Area businesses have lost at least $23 million due to the violent protests in the city, according to authorities.

The Portland City Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday, effectively banning the Portland Police from cooperating with federal authorities.

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